Daniyal Mueenuddin, "A Spoiled Man"

A sad old man’s life gets a little happier and a little sadder at the end. (from The New Yorker, Sept. 15, 2008)

In the Kalapani bazaar, he ate at his usual teahouse, day-old bread soaked in milk, prescribed by a quack homeopath against a fistula that had tormented him for many years. The waiter brought the sopping bread and, when the crowd subsided, came over to have a few words about the flow of tourists up to Murree, more each year, this season begun so early. Lonely as he was, Rezak relied upon his welcome in the teahouse, his connection with it. When the older chickens at the poultry sheds where he worked were culled, Rezak would bring down one of the healthier birds, asking the teahouse to cook it, as a holiday from his bread diet. He shared with whoever was there, insistent, forcing his friend the waiter to eat.

“There, look, I’ve taken some,” the waiter would say, pulling off a wing. Even he, hardened by a diet of stale leftovers from the kitchen, was dubious about eating this time-expired bird.

“No, you have to really eat.” Once, Rezak even became angry about it, leaving abruptly, the chicken still on the table.

It’s only fitting that story this obsessed with senseless cruelty and hardship would include a torture scene. It’s a good way for the character to experience what the reader is going through, put us on the same level, in a way. Poor Rezak. I really liked the old nut. It’s a shame that we had to go through such hardships together.
You too can subject yourself to this excellent story; here.

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